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Wild weather

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on July 16, 2020 Published on July 16, 2020

ILLUSTRATION: MANJULA PADMANABHAN

This afternoon, I set off towards the local post office with a package in my bag. It’s something that Bins has been nagging me to post for the past couple of weeks.

So I get out my face mask, my gloves and a bag for carrying the small, flat package. Just before setting off, I look out of the window. The radio weather report had mentioned thunderstorms, but it’s been sunny all morning. Now, suddenly, there are heavy grey clouds lining the horizon! I start to smile. You see, I have a superstition that any time I make an effort to do something out of doors, it starts to rain.

Sure enough, just as I leave the front door of my building, the first fat drops start to fall. But I’ve brought a little rainproof hat and an umbrella. I feel sure I’ll get to the post office and back without getting wet. Three minutes later, as I walk up the steps, I see that there are six or seven people ahead of me. Everyone is social-distancing, so I am the last person who can actually stand inside the glass doors of the outer lobby.

Usually, the line at the post office moves quickly. Today, it’s slow. Five minutes crawl by inside the second lobby, then another five before I enter mail room, with just one person ahead of me. When it’s my turn, I get my parcel processed, buy some gorgeous, silvery stamps commemorating the moon-landing and exit. As I cross the second lobby, there’s a crack of thunder, then, with a crash, rain begins pelting out of the sky as if all of Heaven has sprung a leak.

A white-haired lady who had gone out before me runs back into the outer lobby, crying, “Oh my gosh — it’s a hurricane!” Three others who had tried to leave a moment ago, also rush back in. We’re all staring open-mouthed as, outside, there’s a scene of almost cartoon frenzy, it’s so violent and so extreme. The rain is like an airborne river, flowing sideways. The wind is roaring, the tree outside the door is whipping itself back and forth like a go-go dancer and the road has become a giant water-slide!

One of the glass doors of the lobby swings open in the wind, and the storm bursts indoors for a few seconds, like a naughty schoolboy. “Look — HAIL!” says the lady who holds the door shut. “How will I get home?” wails the woman who had come back in first. “This is why I carry extra baggies, always,” says a tall cheerful man holding up a Ziplock, “to keep my cellphone safe!”

Moments later, the wind quietens down. “Look! There’s the bus!” says the older lady. “I’m on it too,” says the man, to her. “Need a plastic bag for your phone?” Five more minutes and we all manage to leave, wishing each other good luck. Keeping our distance and wearing masks. Friends forever in this moment’s storm.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on July 16, 2020
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